EDITORIAL: Lessons from child fatality report

2014-06-17T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Lessons from child fatality reportBy The Times Editorial Board nwitimes.com
June 17, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The latest report on child abuse and neglect in Indiana shows some improvement, but there's still a long way to go.

The Indiana Department of Child Services' 2012 Child Fatality Report showed 34 children died of abuse or neglect between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.

Four of those children lived in Northwest Indiana. Lake County had one child who died of abuse and another who died of neglect. A Porter County child died of abuse, and a LaPorte County child died of neglect.

The report offers valuable data. For example, 60 percent of the children who died as a result of abuse were infants. And 63 percent of the 19 who died of neglect were infants.

In addition, the perpetrator in 85 percent of these child deaths was either the child's biological parent or the parent's partner.

That should be taken as an indication that additional education efforts are needed to reach parents, especially parents of newborns.

The report indicated the top risk factors leading to abuse or neglect were low income (49 percent), substance abuse (25 percent) and domestic violence (10 percent). That information should help determine how to focus education efforts for maximum effectiveness.

Anyone arrested on charges of substance abuse or domestic violence, or example, could be required to take a parenting class if they fit the right demographics to make them potential parents.

And recipients of WIC (Women, Infants and Children) aid should be offered parenting lessons. Those recipients should be encouraged to bring their children's fathers and any other partners who might have contact with the children.

"One child fatality is too many," said DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura, a former Lake Juvenile Court judge. "We take this report very seriously and will use it to help us continue to improve our services to Hoosier children and families."

That is an urgent task.

The best response should be education to promote good parenting skills and healthy relationships even before children are conceived.

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